A Kaleidoscope of Colours: The Atlantic Balloon Fiesta

The Atlantic Balloon Fiesta takes place is Sussex, New Brunswick, every year around this time.  With dozens of colourful hot air balloons launching twice daily, it’s truly a sight to behold.  I had never been so I thought I’d get up early this morning and check it out. Early is a bit of an understatement, as the morning balloon launch begins at 6:30 am, meaning I had to get up at 5 am to make it there from Saint John on time!

It was so worth getting up early on a Saturday though, and those who gathered to watch got lucky as conditions were nearly perfect.  Often the balloons aren’t able to launch due to strong winds or cloud cover.  Calm, early mornings are often your best bet to see them in the air.

It’s impossible not to smile when you see those beautiful big balloons going up into the air. Silhouetted against the blue sky, in a multitude of patterns and colours, it’s pure magic.  I can’t even imagine how excited the children in attendance must have been.  I know I felt like a kid.

The fiesta runs through Sunday but with the rain scheduled to come in, this evening at 5:30 pm might be your last chance to see them.  Hot air balloon rides are available, at a price of $180/person but I’m guessing most of the seats have already been sold.  There’s also a craft fair, live music, a carnival and several other events happening on site.

Here are a few pics from my fantastic morning at the fiesta:

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Beautiful morning for a hot air balloon launch!
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Filling up
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Getting there…
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First launch
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Second launch
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Perspectives
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They’re coming fast and furious now!
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Look up
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So magical!
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Love the rocket
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Rocket launch successful!
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Have a great trip!
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The sky’s the limit
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Bye, Tweety Bird!
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A Trip to Kingsbrae Garden

Kingsbrae Garden is a flower lovers dream.  Even for non-gardeners, stepping through the gates of Kingsbrae Garden into these lush grounds feels like entering the Garden of Eden, perhaps even heaven.

Sprawled over 27 acres, Kingsbrae Garden is located in the beautiful town of St. Andrews-by-the-Sea.  The gardens contain over 2500 species of perennials as well as numerous types of trees and shrubs. There’s also a nature walk through the Acadian Forest, a sculpture garden, a windmill and animals to entertain the kids.

I had never visited the gardens before but after seeing a stunning shot of the entrance taken by a friend, I knew I had to drop by for a visit.

I was absolutely stunned by the size of the Kingsbrae Garden.  As Donald would say, it’s huuugge.  You really need several hours to fully explore the grounds and see everything. All I kept thinking while I was walking around and marveling at everything was how much work it must be to maintain this perfectly manicured tribute to nature.  There are so many interesting things to examine, and so many flowers bursting with colour.  I’m sure it’s a full time job for a whole staff of green thumbs.

I would say that the flower trees at the entrance and the sculpture garden were two of my favourite areas, but literally everything is worth seeing.  Kudos to those who work so hard to maintain such a wonderful addition to our province, for tourists and locals alike. It’s truly something that everyone can enjoy.

Below are some photos from my visit.

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A stunning entrance
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How beautiful is this?
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Entry Garden
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Looking back at the Visitors’s Centre
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Entering the Perennial Garden
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Perennial Garden
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This place is the bee’s knees!
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Perfectly manicured Knot & Rose Garden
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Alpaca’s hangin’ out
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And goats
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There’s a windmill.  A WINDMILL.
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A nature photographers dream
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Whimsical sculptures abound

 

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Heath & Heather Garden
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Sculpture Garden
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Sculpture Garden
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Big red chair overlooking the Cafe

If you’ve ever wondered if Kingsbrae Garden is worth a visit, or if you haven’t been there lately, please go!  For anyone who likes to take photos or who is a gardener, this place is amazing.  I couldn’t stop taking pictures and every one was as beautiful as the last.

For more information on Kingsbrae Garden, visit their website kingsbraegarden.com.

Surprising Finds in the Maritimes: New Maryland, site of the last fatal duel in NB

On a recent trip to Mount Carleton, my husband and I drove past a highway sign for New Maryland, New Brunswick.  The sign proudly states that New Maryland is the site of the last fatal duel in the province.  Being the curious person that I am, I couldn’t pass that up, so off we pulled into the village.

Unfortunately, once in New Maryland, I couldn’t find any monument or site dedicated to the duel.  Perhaps I missed something?  I scoured the internet for information on where I could go to commemorate this strange historical event.  I couldn’t find anything about a landmark in town but I did find the story of the duel online, on the New Maryland village website.

The story itself is fascinating, and really quite shocking. Of course, I realize that duels were once the way conflicts were dealt with and that they no doubt occurred here, but to be faced with such detailed facts of the story, made it seem much more real.

For those who are interested, I encourage you to go to the Village of New Maryland website and read the full account, as written by Connie Shanks, published in the Atlantic Advocate in 1991.

Here’s my ‘Coles Notes’ version:

It was really all a case of mistaken identity.  In 1821 in New Maryland, an attorney name George Frederick Street, mistakenly told the sheriff to arrest Jacob Smith Sr. instead of his son, Jacob Smith Jr.

Papa Smitty wasn’t on very good terms with Junior, and wasn’t too impressed with being dragged in on false charges, rightly so.  He got himself a lawyer, a fellow by the name of George Ludlow Wetmore.

Some lawyer-ey stuff went down in court and the two George’s (Street and Wetmore) went at it in a heated argument that included insults and possibly physical violence, outside the courtroom.  

Now, young Wetmore just couldn’t seem to let the whole thing go and had his good buddy John Winslow go to Street’s house the next morning and challenge him to a duel.  It was all terribly formal.  Street agreed and the plan was set.

Wetmore’s buddy Winslow tried to talk the two of them out of it, as any good buddy should, but pride being what it was between men in the 1800’s (or anytime, for that matter), both vehemently refused to offer an apology or take any blame in the matter.

The duel took place in the early morning of October 2nd, 1821, on Maryland Hill, four miles from Fredericton.  As dueling was at this point technically illegal, the families of both men had no idea what was about to go down.

 The two men faced each across the field, aimed and fired their pistols.  Both missed with their first shot.  Now, at this point, you’d think they’d quit while they were both ahead (and alive),  but damn it if Wetmore didn’t insist they tempt fate one more time!  

Murphy’s Law being what it is, Wetmore of course took the brunt of the damage in the second shot and quickly went down.  He was hit in the arm and the head with the same bullet.

Winslow ran to the farmhouse to get some help for his friend.  Street took off as soon he heard help coming and headed for the safety of Robbinstown, Maine.

Wetmore died from his wounds and Street surrendered in December that same year. There was a trial, but in the end no real charges were laid, presumably because both men were dumb enough to enter into a duel.  Street even went on to practice law again and become a judge of the Supreme Court.   He continued to insist that his actions on that fateful morning were justified.

The family of the fallen Wetmore carried on, one son became a judge of the Supreme Court and then later, premier of New Brunswick.

The story goes that the Streets and Wetmores never spoke again, becoming what I can only envision as the Capulets and Montagues of New Brunswick.

If anyone knows if there is actually a monument of some kind to the duel in New Maryland, please let me know.

If not, I would encourage the people of New Maryland to capitalize on this unique history! Your highway sign brings people in, but there should be some place they can go to learn more about the duel.

If you know of something that’s a Surprising Find in the Maritimes, I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

 

On Top of the Maritimes: Our Mount Carleton Trek

Mount Carleton, located in the north of New Brunswick, is the highest peak in the Maritimes, at 820m (2,690ft).  The mountain is located within the Mount Carleton Provincial Park, where there are 4 peaks and more than 42,000 acres of wilderness to explore.  Mount Carleton is the highest peak, followed by Mount Head at 792m, Mount Sagamook at 777m and Mount Bailey at 564m.

On Saturday, Joel and I got up with the sun and headed for Mount Carleton, an almost 5 hour drive from our home in Saint John.

We arrived at the park just after noon.  We would have loved to be able to hike some of the other peaks but we only had a few hours and we definitely wanted to bag the highest peak in the Maritimes so we headed straight for the Mount Carleton trail.

The trail is a roughly 10km loop.  Park staff suggest doing the hike in a clockwise fashion, up the left side of the trail and back down the shorter, right side of the trail.

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The trail is considered moderately difficult, but we found that it was a steady uphill climb until you get to the last kilometer or so, where you can split one of two ways: one a more gentle roundabout climb and another that takes you right along the cliff edge, with a lot more boulders to climb over.  We took the more exposed side as we wanted the better views.

The trail up the mountain is a pretty one, following a babbling brook for part of the way. Headwaters campground is on this side as well, if you’re looking to camp overnight.  Once you hit the fork in the trail marking the last kilometer, you very quickly begin to climb out of the tree line, revealing some amazing views of northern New Brunswick.  It truly is spectacular.

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It is said that on a clear day, you can see more than 10 million trees from the top of Mount Carleton.  Standing at the summit on Saturday, I definitely felt like I could see that many trees.

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You are truly in the wilderness, unplugged from the grind of life, and connected to your immediate surroundings.  This is what I love about hiking.  It gives you a goal to achieve, it’s a great workout, and it allows you a chance to connect with yourself and the quiet solitude of nature.  Joel remarked afterward that there were a few moments of the trail of absolute silence, and how peaceful he found it.

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There are so few moments of silence in our everyday lives.  So much information coming at us at once, from all angles.  We must make time to unplug from our lives, and to make time for silence.


After we were finished hiking, we headed back to the pretty town of Perth-Andover and The Castle Inn.  The Inn was first built in 1932 as the private residence of Bill and Pauline Lewis.  The structure has a Norman Chateau facade and features many local river rocks collected by the couple themselves.

Castle Inn (2)

 

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The building suffered a fire in the 1940’s and when the structure was rebuilt, the tower was added, along with a stunning, spiral staircase.

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After his parents passed away, Lance Lewis planned to turn the home into a Bed and Breakfast but died unexpectedly and was not able to achieve his goal.  The building is now owned by Peter Dunlop, who began building on to the existing structure in 2004 and turned it into the charming Inn we stayed at on Saturday night.

The food was great, the service warm and the rooms were lovely and well appointed.  There is a great spa area with pool, hot tub, gym and saunas.  It was fun to wander around the Inn and examine the beautiful woodwork and rounded doorways original to the house.

We had fun hanging out with the castle cat, Smoky, who comes and goes as he pleases and can often be found curled up on a comfy seat near the front desk.

It was great to cross something off my 2016 goal list this past weekend and to discover some new places in my own province.  Now, on to the next adventure!

A Little Bit of Summer in April: A Day on the Nerepis River

This past week we got a little taste of summer in April, and it was glorious.  After trudging through a cold and grey couple of weeks, we welcomed some unseasonably warm temperatures with childlike abandon: people played hooky from work, the shorts and flip flops were quickly dug out from deep within closets and patios sprang up overnight in the city.

One of the things I love about living in Canada is that we appreciate nice weather.  I mean, we really appreciate it.  Because you just never know when you’re going to get another +22 degree, cloudless day.  It could be weeks, even months from now.  So, you’ve got to get outside and enjoy it while you can.

That’s what we did on Thursday.  We called a couple friends and loaded a couple canoes on the trailer and headed for the hills – of Welsford, New Brunswick – and the Nerepis River.

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Checking out the water level at Blagdon first, the lowest point in the river.  Looks good!

The Nerepis meanders along gently, with topography that ranges from sandy banks to grassy meadows and a golf course, to tree lined cliffs.  There is plenty of wildlife: we saw several eagles (one huge mother!), lots of geese and other birds, and a turtle sunning itself on an old tree stump.

All set to go!  Just waiting on our companions to launch their canoe.
Gorgeous day for a paddle.

 

This is the life!
Lots of pretty S-curves and clear blue skies.

There were quite a few trees across the river and unfortunately my paddling skills were pretty rusty and one of the ‘sweepers’ – what paddlers call overhanging obstacles such as tree limbs and branches – took us out pretty early on and Joel and I ended up soaked from the waist down.

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Peter and Chris approaching the ‘sweeper’ that took I us out.  They did fine.
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We did not fair so well.  Joel managed to keep his cigar lit, though!

Luckily it was already close to 20 degrees by that time and we were able to dry off in the sun fairly quickly.  My feet, however, were wet for the rest of the day.

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Lunch time at the beach.  Time to dry off!
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Hills in the distance.
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Turtle tracks in the sand.

It was a great day.  I love the smell of summer on the skin.  It’s a mixture of sunscreen, sweat and fresh air.  It makes all of the bitterly cold days of winter worth it.

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A very pretty river.
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We saw a lot of eagles in this section.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my camera out fast enough to capture them.

They say the weather has shifted and that temperatures will be cooler for the next while, but that’s ok.  We know that summer is on the way.  For now we can be thankful for this little taste of summer in April.

Surprising Finds in the Maritimes: Black Beach, NB

Have you ever stumbled upon something in or around your community that you never knew was there and didn’t expect to find?

I never expected to find a black sand beach in the Maritimes.  I’ve never seen a black sand beach, except in photos.  So, a short time ago when I saw a picture posted on Instagram of Black Beach in Lorneville, just a few kilometers from my home, I knew I had to check it out for myself.

Black sand beaches are rare in this part of the world.  They are most commonly found in areas of volcanic activity, such as Iceland, Hawaii and the South Pacific.

Black Beach is located in the community of Lorneville, NB, about 19 km from Saint John. The colour of the sand is derived from graphite deposits.  The beach is located along the Musquash Estuary, one of the most biologically productive areas in Atlantic Canada. Over 4,000 acres of the estuary is protected by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC).

Known for its biodiversity, the Musquash Estuary is home to numerous species of birds, fish and terrestrial wildlife.  It is the last fully functioning estuary in the Bay of Fundy.

Two hiking trails are located in the area, maintained by the NCC: Black Beach trail and Five Fathom Hole trail.  Joel and I hiked the 4.2 km loop of Black Beach trail a couple Saturday’s ago.  It’s a lovely hike through the forest with great views of the estuary.  We didn’t get to see a lot of wildlife, but it was quite windy when we were there, so we’d like to come back in the summer when the weather improves and we have more time to spend nature-watching.  I love the thick moss carpet that lines much of the trail. It provides a splash of colour, even in this brown period between winter and spring.

It was cold on the beach so we weren’t able to stay long but this area is so unique and special, for its black sand as well as its ecological importance.  I encourage you to explore the area and discover the beauty you might not have even known was there. Just make sure to leave the area just as you left it.

Here are some photos of our hike:

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Black Beach in Lorneville, NB.
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Looking across Musquash Harbour on a grey day.
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Checking out Black Beach from the top of the hill.
Much of the bottom side of the trail loop has views of the Musquash Estuary, protected by the National Conservancy of Canada.


Tree trunks and moss for miles.  This is my kind of place.


At the end of the trail loop is a great lookout over the estuary.

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Getting a closer look at that surprising black sand.
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Mine are the first footprints of the day at Black Beach.

If you’d like more information about Black Beach and/or the Musquash Estuary, please visit www.natureconversancy.ca.

Do you know of a surprising find in the Maritimes?  I’d love to hear about it?

 

A Winter’s Trip to Ministers Island, NB

I don’t know of many islands in the world that you get to by driving over the ocean floor at low tide, but Ministers Island is one of them.  Located in the Bay of Fundy, just off the coast of uber-charming St. Andrews by-the-Sea, a trip to Ministers Island is like stepping back in time.  The island is home to the property of Sir William Van Horne, famous for his role in building the Canadian Pacific Railway.  Van Horne bought part of the island (named Ministers Island because one of the first settlers was Reverand Samuel Andrews) in 1890.  On the property he built a magnificent 50-room summer home named Covenhoven and several other outbuildings, including a windmill, ice house and creamery and a stunning bathhouse built against the cliff-side that offers panoramic views of the Bay of Fundy.

I was really enchanted by our short visit a few weeks ago.  Even though the buildings are closed up for the winter months, you still get a real sense of history as you stroll through the grounds and their beautifully built structures.  You could spend hours here exploring the island and it’s many trails.  Just make sure you make it back over the bar before the tide comes up!

The barn recently sustained significant damage to its silos and requires extensive repairs. For information about how you can help with the restoration efforts, follow their Facebook page Ministers Island or visit their website here.

Here are some pictures I took from our trip to the island.  I would highly recommend planning a trip of your own.  It would be really lovely in the summer!

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Waiting for the tide to reveal our road to Ministers Island.  You can see the barn poking through the trees on the far right.
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Heading across the bar to the island
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The first structure you come to on the island is the house of Reverend Samuel Andrews, built in 1790 and the reason for the island’s name.
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The barn and creamery.  The damage to the silos is clearly visible.
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One of the trails on the island, that leads through a hedge of eastern white cedar and feels like walking through a Robert Frost poem.
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The windmill and back of the main house, Covenhoven.
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The pretty front door of Covenhoven.  The house was intended to serve as a summer cottage when construction began in 1891 but underwent many renovations and now stands at 50 rooms.
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Front view of Covenhoven.
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Beauty view from the front porch of the main house.
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Stunning bathhouse, completed in 1912, that inspired many of Van Horne’s paintings.
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Garage built in 1917 for Van Horne’s Model T Ford and other vehicles.  Upstairs is the chauffeur’s apartment.